Passenger collapses at Heathrow Airport after queuing for several hours

‘The situation is becoming untenable,’ says airport chief solutions officer

Helen Coffey@LenniCoffey
Thursday 15 April 2021 15:47
Heathrow arrivals face six-hour queues for Covid-19 checks

A passenger collapsed at Heathrow Airport border control after waiting in line for several hours.

Video of the incident shows the traveller lying on the floor while a border force guard kneels at their side.

The camera pans out to show numerous people queuing at arrivals, many of whom are sitting down, as if they have been waiting for some time.

Freelance journalist Kashif Iqbal shared the video on Twitter on 12 April, alongside the caption: “A passenger collapsed at Heathrow Airport today after 7hr waiting for entry clearance.”

However, the Home Office has disputed this account, telling The Independent that the passenger in question arrived at 10.30am and collapsed at around 1pm, meaning they had been queuing for no more than two and a half hours when the incident occurred.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are in a global health pandemic – people should not be travelling unless absolutely necessary.

“Border Force has ensured it has the right level of resources to check that passengers are compliant with our border health measures.

“Queues and wait times will currently be longer, as it is vital that we undertake thorough checks at the border and due to the fact that some passengers have not completed the necessary requirements to enter the UK, such as purchasing covid testing packages or booking their hotel quarantine in advance.”

Heathrow Airport confirmed it was aware that a passenger had collapsed following a 90-minute argument about hotel quarantine with Border Force officials.

They said that the individual did not have the required paperwork for hotel quarantine.

A Heathrow spokesperson told The Independent: “When additional measures were implemented at the border, we were clear with the Government that they must support the Border Force to ensure appropriate numbers of officials are on duty to minimise queuing in the Immigration Hall.

“It is deeply regrettable that Border Force has been unable to provide adequate resourcing, despite our many attempts to highlight the implications of not doing so. Leaving arriving passengers to queue for hours is unreasonable and no airport has the space to hold arriving passengers in socially distanced queues for over four hours, as has been the case in recent weeks.

“While our teams are on hand to support Border Force, it is their and the Government’s responsibility to ensure that their processes are properly managed and efficiently carried out without impacting passenger welfare.”

It comes after Chris Garton, chief solutions officer at Heathrow, told MPs on the transport select committee that some travellers were facing waits of up to six hours at Heathrow caused by extensive Covid checks.

“The situation is becoming untenable,” he said. “We’ve had queues in excess of two hours and up to six hours over the past few days.”

The airport executive warned that passengers were becoming disruptive as they waited to be interviewed by UK Border Force.

Mr Garton said: “There’s 100 per cent checking.

“Everybody is lumped together to be assessed in terms of their compliance with the paperwork.

“The airport was never built to have so many people held up.”

He added that the airport was “beginning to see disruption among arriving passengers. We’re having to involve police officers.”

Mr Garton told the select committee that the solution would be “to make sure that before you travel to the UK, your entry is assured. Automation is not coming fast enough.”

This article was updated subsequent to publication to include a comment from the Home Office.

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